10 Oct 2022
by Saj Huq

‘Mission-led collaboration’ will strengthen the UK cyber ecosystem (Guest blog by Plexal)

Guest blog by Saj Huq, CCO and head of innovation at Plexal #Cyber2022

Darkness and despair were the very real expectations that people had when the year 2000 rolled around – a result of the infamous Millennium Bug rumours. Although the lights remained on and we weren’t plunged into eternal night without access to bank accounts, the years that immediately followed did bring about new technological threats.

The rapid spread of malware between 2000 and 2004, dubbed the Worm Era by Sophos, caused over $100bn in damages. And Microsoft and NASA were among the rising number of cybercrime victims during the early 2000s.

Taking action in 2004, President George W. Bush proclaimed October would become Cyber Security Awareness Month – now a global initiative – to promote understanding of online risks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and National Cybersecurity Alliance lead the charge, encouraging government and industry to join forces and share knowledge.

Here across the pond, pillar one of the UK’s National Cyber Strategy points squarely at strengthening the UK’s cyber ecosystem. This is only truly achievable if we, as members of the cyber community, collectively work towards the same mission. Collaboration between public and private is instrumental to everything Plexal does, and we know it’s essential for UK cyber to stand strong and advance. For techUK’s Cyber Week – and beyond – this is the message we want to hit home.

The UK government has made strides in this direction over the past several years. In 2018, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) embarked on a mission to grow its cyber security capabilities and we co-launched the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA) – an industry-led innovation programme to support cyber founders.

Through startup collaboration, the government is pushing forward the acceleration of new innovations that it otherwise wouldn’t have access to. The 72 cyber startups that have gone through our LORCA accelerators, whether for scale, investment, technical support or market access, have collectively raised over £300m, generated more than £68m in revenue and hired over 700 people.

This sector is thriving. The latest DCMS Annual Cyber Report revealed that £10.1bn in revenue was generated by over 1,800 cyber security companies in the most recent financial year – a 14% year-on-year growth. Additionally, over £1bn of investment was generated across 84 deals – a new record.

Reinforcing the power of collaborating with non-traditional partners, the National Cyber Security Centre has teamed startups to drive forward its mission to make the UK the safest place to live and work online. We work alongside the department on its NCSC for Startups programme to discover and nurture the brightest minds in cyber to tackle a series of critical challenges.

These founders receive access to world-leading technical expertise, product development funding and opportunities to develop new solutions with the NCSC, while the government in turn influences and empowers the growth of new innovations to safeguard the economy and achieve its mission. The NCSC for Startups alumni of over 50 companies has collectively raised over £430m and created hundreds of jobs nationwide.

The collaborative mission-led route pioneered by Plexal can ensure we’re actively creating the conditions, networks and systems to enable the UK’s thriving cyber ecosystem to grow. Harnessing innovation and SME capabilities to deliver emerging technologies can meet the needs of government and the economy, while building new markets and driving broader prosperity. The numbers speak for themselves.

But beyond the economic benefits, the bigger picture here is both broader national security and resilience, of which cyber is an increasingly key component. From a resilience perspective, threats from nation states pose risks to our critical national infrastructure, supply chains and overall way of life, and we must ensure that we’re embedding cyber security within broader emerging technology development as our society becomes ever more connected.

For national security, the nature of the game has changed – risks now encompass economic threats as much as traditional ones. In a growing, high-tech ecosystem, adequately protecting novel, sovereign IP and attracting adequate amounts of trusted capital into the system to back early-stage entrepreneurs within a domain that is increasingly critical for both security and prosperity is more important than ever.

This is a clear reminder that there’s strength in numbers. We as organisations, small and large, can support each other by combining our efforts in science and technology together to defend our borders as well as creating new market opportunities to develop and grow disruptive technologies across likeminded partners and geographies.

The research and development agency of the United States Department of Defense, DARPA, oversees emerging technology development for military usage. It’s committed "to make pivotal investments in breakthrough technologies for national security". The national security space has historically been very isolated, so initiatives like DARPA are precisely what’s required to create a competitive advantage.

Looking to break down barriers in this arena ourselves, we’ve secured three stateside partnerships as part of a transatlantic national security ecosystem. The focus is on enabling government and industry to diversify their supply chains, and share common challenges across a network of partners and innovators who share their mission.

As an industry, it’s time for us to realise that we’re all on the same team. Together, governments, startups and big tech can strengthen our national defences. United, strategic collaboration can become the standard through which we protect ourselves against the ever-evolving threat landscape.

Help to shape and govern the work of techUK’s Cyber Security Programme

Did you know that nominations are now open* for techUK’s Cyber Management Committee? We’re looking for senior representatives from cyber security companies across the UK to help lead the work of our Cyber Security Programme over the next two years. Find out more and how to nominate yourself/a colleagues here.

*Deadline to submit nomination forms is 17:00 on Tuesday 18 October.

Upcoming events 

Cyber Innovation Den

On Thursday 3 November, techUK will host our fourth annual Cyber Innovation Den online. This year we’ll explore efforts being made to realised the ambition set out in the National Cyber Strategy, with speakers taking a look at the progress we’ve seen to date, including the foundation of the UK Cyber Security Council, the reinvigoration of the Cyber Growth Partnership and the continued growth in the value of the sector to the UK economy.

Book now!

Cyber Security Dinner

In November techUK will host the first ever Cyber Security Dinner. The dinner will be a fantastic networking opportunity, bringing together senior stakeholders from across industry and government for informal discussions around some of the key cyber security issues for 2022 and beyond.

Book now!

Get involved

All techUK's work is led by our members - keep in touch or get involved by joining one of the groups below.


The Cyber Management Committee sets the strategic vision for the cyber security programme, helping the programme engage with government and senior industry stakeholders.


The CSSMEF is comprised of SME companies from the techUK membership. The CSSMEF seeks to include a broad grouping of different SME companies working in the Cyber Security (CS) sectors.




Saj Huq

Saj Huq

CCO and head of innovation, Plexal